*** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT*** If you haven't read TEN TINY BREATHS, DON'T READ THIS! It will ruin the book and all other books for as long as you shall live.
*** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT*** If you haven't read TEN TINY BREATHS, DON'T READ THIS! It will ruin the book and leprechauns will pull your eyelashes out while you sleep.
*** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT*** If you haven't read TEN TINY BREATHS, DON'T READ THIS! It will ruin the book. Nothing else. That's bad enough.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way... here ya go. I hope you like it.
It takes me three tries with the doorknob to get the damn thing turning, thanks to my sweaty palms.I grit my teeth.I have to do this.I know I do.Not because Stayner says so, even though he’s always right. In the back of my mind, I’ve known this moment would come since the second I locked eyes with her in the laundromat. Of course I ignored it. Like the fucking lunatic that I am, I convinced myself that we could have a happily ever after with two red haired kids and a white picket fence. Maybe a fat little pug. She’d never need to know...But now she does know. She knows who I am and how I helped destroy her life. She knows everything there is to know about me, except how sorry I am.My knees are shaking.I take a deep breath and hold it. One … two … three … I push the door open and step into the small sterile room to see that it’s exactly as Stayner described it. The white walls, the plastic chair.The one-way mirror with Kacey waiting behind it.I told Stayner that I needed to apologize to her face but I couldn’t handle seeing the hatred in her eyes. So, as creative as the unconventional doctor is, he came up with this idea. The bastard even smiled when he dropped his plan on me thirty minutes ago. It sounded so simple: walk in, sit down in the chair, wait for the red light, and pour my heart out. I even repeated the steps in my head a thousand times to make sure I didn’t screw it up.But now that I see the giant mirror in front of me, the one that has the love of my life on the other side probably screaming at me, my guts twist into tight knots. I think I might throw up.I have to do this.The walls of the already small room close in on me as I force one leg in front of the other toward it. And I make it. I make it to the chair because I have to. Kacey deserves this much from me.As much as I want to look down, I keep my face level and stare into my reflection, seeing myself as Kacey must see me now—hollow. I wonder if I’d be able to hear her curses and screams, if my heart wasn’t pounding like an anvil against my ribs.I wait for that red light.And wait.My heart sinks. Has Kacey bolted from the room at the sight of me? Does she hate me that much? Does she have Stayner in a choke hold? Is this a total bust? Will—I catch the red light flickering on in my peripherals and know that she can hear me now. My focus instantly drops to the floor. I take three deep breaths as saliva pools in my mouth and I’m again hit with a wave of nausea. Fuck. How Stayner convinced me to do this, I have no idea. He swore it would give me the closure I’ve needed all these years. All I remember is my head bobbing up and down in agreement as he spoke and all the while I kept thinking that I don’t ever want to let go of Kacey.But now I have to admit to myself, as I’m fidgeting in my seat, fumbling with my hands like an idiot, that I never had her to begin with. All I had was a lie and I can’t hang on to that.It’s now. I need to say it all now. This will be my only chance to apologize to Kacey, and I have so much to apologize for.Compelling my head to lift, I look into the mirror and face four years of pain, loss, and regret dead-on for the first time. “Hey, Kacey.” A lump rises to my throat as her name touches my lips. I’ll never kiss her again. I’ll never feel her soft hands in mine again. I’ll never curl up behind her in bed and inhale the citrus scent of her hair. I’ll never have anything with her again. I clear my throat. “This is a bit weird, talking to myself in a mirror, but it’s the only way I knew I could get through saying all that I needed to say so …” I take a deep breath. “I’m happy that you’re here, with Dr. Stayner. He’s a great doctor, Kacey. Trust him. I wish I had trusted him fully. Then maybe I wouldn’t have put you through all this.” I press my lips together and look away as that image hits me for the millionth time. It’s the one of her crumpling to the pavement in the commons when she realizes who I am. Her hands are pushing through that gorgeous red hair of hers as she screams, “no!” over and over again. Tears burn my eyes as I try to get rid of that image and replace it with one of her smiling. She has such a beautiful smile. She deserves to smile again, even if it’s not for me.I turn back to face the mirror with new resolve and the words begin to flow out of me like I’ve rehearsed them, which I have. “I thought …” my voice is a little bit husky but I push through, “I thought that making you fall in love with me would fix everything else I had done to you. I thought I could make you happy, Kacey. Happy enough that if you ever did find out, you’d be okay with it.” I dip my head into my hands, as I hear myself admit the words out loud to another person for the first time. How did it come to this? How did I turn into this guy? I look back up and offer her a weak, crooked smile. “How fucked up is that?”Now that I’ve started talking, it’s a bit easier. “What happened that night four years ago was the worse decision I’ve ever made, and one that I will live to regret for the rest of my life. If I could turn back time and save your family, save my family, save Sasha and Derek, I would. I’d do it. I’d do anything to change it.” I swallow another lump, this one prickly. “Sasha—” I dip my head again as I feel hot tears stream down my cheek.He offered to drive that night and I let him. It’s my fault he was behind the wheel.“Sasha was a good guy, Kacey. You won’t believe me, but you would have liked him. I grew up with him.” I smile, thinking back to all those summers playing street hockey together in our cul-de-sac as the sun dropped. Then we’d sneak out and hook up with girls from high school. Those were great times. I don't let myself think about them because it hurts too damn much. “He was like a brother to me. He didn’t deserve what happened to him but, in a strange way, it’s better this way. He wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes with that kind of guilt. He—” my voice cracks and I take a moment to wipe away the tears. “He was a good guy.”My eyes flitter around the perimeter of the mirror, wondering what’s happening on the other side. I imagine Kacey standing with a chair in her hands and fire in her eyes, about to shatter the glass. I’d deserve it, that’s for sure. “I know you must hate me, Kacey. You hated Cole. So much. But I’m not Cole, Kacey. I’m not that guy anymore.” I inhale deeply and the air that I draw brings with it a sense of redemption that I’ve never felt before. Stayner was right. “I can’t fix what I did to you. All I can say is that I’m sorry. That and dedicate my life to letting others out there know how much this mistake can cost. How much it can hurt.” How they’ll spend their days crushed by guilt, wishing they’ll wake up from the nightmare. Or that they just won’t wake up at all. “That much I can do. For me and for you,” I promise.I lift a shaky hand to the glass and hold it there, imagining her fingers pressed up against it on the other side, so close to me. Loving me. It’s a fucking pipedream, I know. But I keep my hand there, thinking about the first time I parked outside her aunt and uncle’s house. I waited for her to come out, to see the girl who refused to acknowledge my existence. And when she did, her strides long and confident, a gym bag slung over her shoulder, her hair swaying with every step, I got a hard-on. I peeled out of there, feeling all kinds of sick. But it kept happening every time I saw her. I couldn’t help it. She’s just so beautiful.She’s my beautiful broken angel.
I let all my dreams of a life with her die as my hand drops to my lap. Now there’s nothing left to do but bare my soul and move on. “I wanted to tell you in person that, even though my intentions were wrong, what I felt for you was real, Kacey. It still is real. I just can’t hold onto it anymore. We both need a chance to heal. I hope that one day you can heal from all of this, and someone can make you laugh. You have such a beautiful laugh, Kacey Cleary.” I mean those words with every fiber of my body and yet they rip my guts out as I hear them out loud. I don’t want her with anyone. I don’t want anyone but me making her laugh. I love her. I have no right but I love her.That’s why I have to walk away.Numbness washes over me as I stand. It takes everything in me to turn around and walk toward the door. All I can do is hope that she’ll forgive me one day. That and know that, whether it’s next week or next year, or in seventy years, I’ll die loving her.I just make it out the door—just barely—before my legs give and I crumble.